19 Apr



Here is a suggestion for a Flynn and Son double feature. Now, while one obvious choice is “Captain Blood” and “The Son of Captain Blood”, this pairing is more interesting, I believe, because both lead characters have a major decision of conscience.

In “Uncertain Glory” (which celebrates the 70th anniversary of its premiere this month), Errol plays what might be termed an anti-hero, in that his character is a career criminal and convicted murderer set to be executed at the film’s beginning. The film was the first production of his then, newly formed production company, Thompson Productions and was chosen by Errol as a departure from his usual heroic roles.  The character, Jean Picard (no relation to Jean-Luc Picard of “Star Trek—The Next Generation”, I think), is about to face the quillotine, when during an Allied bombing raid on Occupied France, the prison where the execution is to take place is hit. Picard then makes his escape, but is soon recaptured by Inspector Bonet, the Surete inspector responsible for Picard’s original arrest, played by American Oscar winning actor, Paul Lukas. En route to Paris, they are forced to make a detour due to the bombing of a bridge, committed by a saboteur that took out a Nazi transport train. The Nazis in retaliation have taken 100 hostages from neighboring French villages and will execute them if the saboteur is not turned over to them. Picard implores Bonet to let him surrender himself as the saboteur as he would rather be killed by a firing squad (the means of execution of the Gestapo), then face the quillotine once again. Bonet wanting to help the hostages agrees to Picard’s plan, secure in the knowledge that if Picard uses this as a device to escape he will meet with failure.  (Or so he thinks!) While in a village, as they go over their plan, Bonet announces to his superiors that Jean Picard is dead; shot by him trying to escape. They also come across the real saboteur who provides them with Intel only he would know. At the same time Picard romances an innocent girl of the village played by the beautiful Jean Sullivan.  Now that he is officially dead and has a woman he can begin a new life with, and Bonet has taken ill, will he still trade places with the real saboteur or seize this chance to escape?

Errol gives one of his better performances as a villainous man who thinks only of himself. Unfortunately critics and audiences of the day did not agree. The film did okay at the box office, but did not do the business he hoped for. Flynn biographer, Thomas McNulty says  this, of Errol’s performance “perhaps one of the best of his career”. I agree. The scenes between Errol and Lukas definitely make the film worthwhile. Two of his other co-stars of note in this film are: Sheldon Leonard who plays Flynn’s best friend who ultimately betrays him over a girl, later became a successful American television producer of such shows like “Make Room for Daddy” and “I Spy” and “the girl”, Louise, played by the beautiful Faye Emerson, would have her own show in the 1950s.

Released in the U.S. in 1964, twenty years after “Uncertain Glory” and celebrating its own 50th anniversary release this year is “Stop Train 349”, a West German/French/Italian co-production. The film is called by Flynn biographer, Jeffrey Meyer, Sean’s “best film” and Sean in interviews said he was most proud of doing this film.

Loosely based on real events, the film starred American Oscar winning actor, Jose Ferrer and details the plight of refugees trying to cross “the Berlin wall”, one in particular who tries to use a train run by the U.S. military, as an escape vehicle.

The film starts with a prologue, detailing (for those unfamiliar with U.S. President Kennedy’s “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech) the building of the Berlin Wall, all set to strains of a song titled, “Goodbye, Berlin, Auf weidersehen”! After this introductory scene, the audience is introduced to Jose Ferrer’s character, an “ugly American” type reporter who makes his way onto the train and butts heads with the train’s military commander, a young lieutenant played by Flynn. The train is held at Marienborn station (the border between East and West Berlin) because the Communist officials at the station believe an East Berlin citizen is illegally on board. What follows is a political standoff between the Americans on the train and the Russians and Germans at the station. The film shot in black & white has a stark realism. Sean’s performance as a good “Joe” caught in the middle of a difficult situation is slightly uneven, but basically effective.

The film was initially released in West Germany in 1963 as “Verspatung in Marienborn” and released in the U.S. by Allied Artists as “Stop Train 349” in 1964. It won the best “youth” film award at the 1963 Berlin International Film Festival. In the U.S. while Jose Ferrer was the nominal star, Sean was still listed as “the son of Errol Flynn” in all advertising for the movie. Allied Artists’ brazen exploitation of Sean’s parentage aside, the movie only did fair box office in the U.S.

In their respective films, the Flynns have difficult decisions to make. Both got mixed reviews for their performances. But I feel this makes an interesting double bill. Both are a product of their time. See for yourself. “Uncertain Glory” is part of the TCM Spotlight collection: the Errol Flynn Adventures DVD collection and can be seen occasionally on the TCM cable channel. Stop Train 349” is also available on DVD from different on-line dealers such as… and Movies Unlimited, as well as can be seen on the SeanFlynnCambodia YouTube channel.—A. R.



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  1. Tim

    April 19, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    What a great analysis, recommendation and write-up, ILIKEFLYNN! Thank you!

    And thank you, too, for reminding us all of the great beauty, Jean Sullivan, who was also quite a talent even beyond acting. After doing Uncertain Glory, which opened doors for her, she left for New York and became a star performer in ballet, Flamenco dance (she danced with Rita Hayworth’s uncle, Angel Cansino, who also taught Gene Kelly), and Spanish guitar!!! Played cello & piano, too! So, that’s one of Uncertain Glory’s unheralded successes!

    I agree with you & Tom, excellent performance by Errol! He was just SO unbelievably tremendous in roles like CB, RH, GT (FB), GC & GJ, that most people just wanted that. Still true today, I believe.

    I’ve got to see Sean in Stop Train!



    P.S. I think she’d be a great addition to Robert’s great Flynn Fellow Travelers list.


      April 20, 2014 at 3:52 am

      Thanks, Tim for the intel about Jean Sullivan. One thing I forgot to mention about “Stop Train 349” was its great jazz score by Claude Vasori.–A. R.


    April 21, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Here’s something I recently learned about the casting of “Stop Train 349”. According to the book, “Sean Flynn, L’instinct de l’aventure” by Phiippe Lombard, Jose Ferrer was a replacement for Orson Welles who was initially planned to star. It would have been interesting to see how Sean would have played opposite one of his father’s old pals. (I don’t know if Ferrer and Errol ever met. Maybe someone on the blog could enlighten me.)–A. R.

  3. Lollie

    April 24, 2014 at 11:18 am

    I LOVE Uncertain Glory,it is one of my all time favourite’s of Errol’s movies.He is brilliant in it.It is a very underrated movie.